Voters in Kosovo are heading to the polls on October 22 in an election to choose mayors and councilors in 38 municipalities.
Some 1.89 million people are registered to vote at 2,505 polling stations in 38 municipalities, with the mayor’s race in Pristina likely to be the most closely watched.
Many observers will be looking for any signs of ethnic tensions in the country, especially in the northern, Serb-majority regions. There are some 120,000 Serbs in Kosovo, and most of them oppose the Pristina authorities.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has said that 27 of the municipalities have an ethnic-Albanian majority, 10 have ethnic-Serb majorities, and one is mostly ethnic Turkish.
The CEC explained that the number of registered voters includes Kosovar citizens living abroad and is often is larger than the actual population of Kosovo, currently about 1.81 million.
Democracy in Action, a nongovernmental organization, will have some 3,000 observers monitoring the election, Ismet Kryeziu, the group’s chief, told a news conference.
In Pristina, eight candidates are vying in the mayoral race, including incumbent Shpend Ahmeti of the nationalist Vetevendosje movement (VV).
Arban Abrashi, the minister of social welfare and a current member of parliament from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), is also competing.
Earlier this year, Kosovo experienced a prolonged period of political instability created by inconclusive June elections.
The political gridlock eased in September when a coalition headed by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the New Alliance for Kosovo (AKR), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) agreed to form a government.
The deal gave the coalition, which also included ethnic-Serb and other non-Albanian minority parties, 63 of parliament’s 120 seats.
President Hashim Thaci had said he would give Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the AAK, a formal mandate to try to form a government once he could show he had a deal showing a majority coalition was in place.